Just in case you needed another reason to hit the gym, you can add osteoporosis prevention to the list.
But before we get into the how’s and why’s, let’s review the basics of osteoporosis to learn how all the pieces fit together, so to speak.
Osteoporosis is the breakdown of bone mass in our skeletons, making our bones weaker and more susceptible to factures and breaks. This condition is common, affecting over 200 million people worldwide…80 percent of whom are women. The reasons why women tend to get osteoporosis more than men are numerous:
- Sex differences—women have less bone mass in general.
- Age—women tend to live longer, increasing their incidence of osteoporosis.
- Hormones—osteoporosis can be accelerated by menopause.
Yes, unfortunately, we women are more prone to get osteoporosis than men, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it. Though it’s the last thing that many of us want to hear, hitting the gym can be an effective way to stave off soft bones in both women and men alike.
Osteoporosis and Exercise
So, what does exercise have to do with osteoporosis?
Though it’s not commonly thought of as one of the benefits of exercise, certain activities can actually make our bones stronger. When we perform weight-bearing exercises, like jogging or hiking, we place stress on the bones in our legs. This stress activates special bone cells called osteoblasts that are responsible for building up bone tissue. When these cells start working, they generate new bone tissue in our bodies and increase the thickness of bone mass overall, making our skeletons tougher and more resistant to breaks.
This is how exercise helps us fight off osteoporosis—the more resistance we put on our bones, the stronger our bones become. But of course, not just any exercise will do the trick.
Any weight-bearing activity will help build your bone tissue, but that’s not the only way to toughen up your bones. Resistance activities, such as weight-lifting, can create more bone density and increase muscle strength at the same time. Here are a few simple exercises that can help stave off those brittle bones:
- Running, jogging, walking—just about any activity where you’re standing on your own two feet.
- Weight-lifting—free weights, machines, barbells, dumbbells. Stronger muscles support stronger bones.
- Dancing—don’t think of it as exercise, think of it as a fun activity that keeps you fit and helps your bones stay strong.
As a good rule of thumb, think of any weight-bearing activity as supportive for bone health. Take care though when getting out and exercising—the last thing those of us with osteoporosis need is to take a tumble down a hill while out hiking. Make sure whatever activity you choose is safe and performed carefully to help give you the bone boost you need.